Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University

Alumni Spotlight: Imran Omar, MD

Dr. Omar and his family

Ask Imran Omar, MD (RES ’05, MSK Fellow ’06), Chief of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s musculoskeletal (MSK) radiology division, what he’s known for and he’ll say it’s being a fluent MSK radiology generalist and collaborator—a refreshing claim to fame in an era of increasingly narrow subspecialization.

It was his father, a radiologist, who first stimulated this interest in him, coming home each night to tell his family about the different cases he saw that day. “The variety really was intellectually stimulating,” recalls Omar, as was the opportunity to help a large number of patients. This curiosity led him to Jefferson, where he completed his diagnostic radiology residency in 2005 before accepting an MSK Fellowship position.

Citing the camaraderie of the reading room, Omar says he chose the Division because members “genuinely enjoy one another’s company and are interested in each other’s lives.”

Not long after Omar began his fellowship, Adam Zoga and others became fascinated by athletic pubalgia, an at-the-time vague complex of aches and pains without any accepted imaging findings (see the previous issue for more). Omar threw himself into research that he says felt more like a division-wide pet project than anything else. “It was more of an intellectual curiosity that we had,” he says, a chance to better describe the biomechanics of core muscles and tendons, and make an impact on patient care.

Working with surgeon Dr. William Meyers, pubalgia pioneer and the team’s main referrer for core muscle injury, gave him a fuller appreciation of the radiologist’s role in patient management and cemented his view of the importance of image interpretation. For Omar, watching Dr. Meyers and others alter their treatment plans based on his readings crystallized the value of collaboration.

“I felt really invested in what I was doing,” he says of his time at Jefferson. “You can’t just spoon feed information to students. You have to impart some of your own drive to them so they ask questions and then go find answers.” But, he says, this is also true of collaborating with colleagues and has been borne out in the seven years he has been the head of MSK radiology at Northwestern.

“You need to have buy-in from whoever is involved in a project,” says Omar, holding up a multidisciplinary spine intervention he recently got off the ground as an example. Using empathy and honest arguments, Omar was able to get all of the stakeholders to “speak the same language,” and flesh out an arrangement that was sustainable and ultimately beneficial to patients.

“Always, we have to resist the temptation to come into our little cubby hole and read cases from when we start to when we finish work,” he insists, and instead remember the many-colored clinical tapestry radiologists are woven into.